Friday, 31 December 2010

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Ghostwalker 12: Ruthless Game - Christine Feehan

Release Date: 31/12/10


On a mission to rescue hostages in Mexico, the last thing GhostWalker Kane Cannon expects to find is Rose Patterson - fellow GhostWalker, fugitive, and pregnant with his child. Forced into a breeding program by Dr Whitney, Rose escaped with the help of Kane after she was impregnated by him, but despite Kane's desperate need to keep her close to him, she has eluded him ...until now. But does she feel the same passion for him that he feels for her?


Christine is not only an established name within the Urban Fantasy genre but she’s good at what she does, that is the Urban Fantasy Love story. You want a love story/interest, you got it. You want a kick ass heroine, you got that and if you want a descent story that continues to develop the already established series, you’ve got that as well.

Add to the mix a well written title, characters that just ooze confidence and sex appeal backed up with some good solid prose and tempting dialogue then you really have to get some of this authors work. Great stuff although on a side note, start at the beginning of the series otherwise you’ll miss not only some key background information but a lot of the journey to date that places this title in the context it needs to be read in.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

FANTASY REVIEW: Stormlight Archives 1: The Way of Kings - Brandon Sanderson

Release Date: 30/12/10


According to mythology mankind used to live in The Tranquiline Halls. Heaven. But then the Voidbringers assaulted and captured heaven, casting out God and men. Men took root on Roshar, the world of storms. And the Voidbringers followed . . . They came against man ten thousand times. To help them cope, the Almighty gave men powerful suits of armor and mystical weapons, known as Shardblades. Led by ten angelic Heralds and ten orders of knights known as Radiants, mankind finally won. Or so the legends say. Today, the only remnants of those supposed battles are the Shardblades, the possession of which makes a man nearly invincible on the battlefield. The entire world is at war with itself - and has been for centuries since the Radiants turned against mankind. Kings strive to win more Shardblades, each secretly wishing to be the one who will finally unite all of mankind under a single throne. On a world scoured down to the rock by terrifying hurricanes that blow through every few day a young spearman forced into the army of a Shardbearer, led to war against an enemy he doesn't understand and doesn't really want to fight. What happened deep in mankind's past? Why did the Radiants turn against mankind, and what happened to the magic they used to wield?


With all the time that this author is devoting to finishing the Wheel of Time, it’s a surprise that he has the time let alone the energy to create a new title of his own. Yet here, just before years end, is a brand new series by Brandon that just leaps from the pages into the readers imagination.

Within this book you get a story of adventure, of discovery and of mystery in a world that has been epically built. Whilst parts may seem a little strange, it’s the myriad of characters (both main and secondary) that demonstrates not only Brandon’s skill at weaving a tale but creating a world that the reader will just love to spend time in. Whilst most first novels in a new series are devoted more to world building and allowing the reader to get to grips with it, this one throws you in at the deep end and with a rather steep learning curve. It’s definitely creative, it’s definitely got something unique and demonstrates why this author has been allowed to finish the vision of Jordan’s world.

All in, Brandon is perhaps one of the most creative fantasy writers of the moment and with many other the epic series winding down, is definitely offering the readers a choice of a new selection of heroes to follow in a magical world of his own. A real treat and with the way that the weathers set in, perhaps one of the best ways to see the new year in. Great stuff.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Of Saints and Shadows - Christopher Golden

Release Date: 14/03/10


A secret sect of the Catholic Church, armed with an ancient book of the undead called The Gospel of Shadows, has been slowly destroying vampires for centuries. Now the book has been stolen, and the sect races to retrieve it before their purpose is discovered: a final purge of all vampires. As the line between saints and shadows grows ominously faint, private eye Peter Octavian is drawn into the search. And he'll do anything to find the book ...for Peter Octavian is also a vampire. Ostracized by his kindred for refusing to take part in the 'blood song', he cannot stand by and watch while they are destroyed. In a deadly game with a driven, sadistic assassin, the trail leads to Venice at the time of carnival, where the Defiant Ones, as the vampires are known, are engaged in a savage battle for their lives. Filled with plot twists, mystery, sex and violent death, Of Saints and Shadows is a spine-tingling thriller which opens the door to the world of The Shadow Saga.


Fans of the fang will undoubtedly be looking for something a little different compared to a number of the titles out there, and boy, do you get it with this offering from Christopher Golden. There’s a secret war, some literal secrets and above all else a kick ass leading man who the readers will just fall for. He’s got it all, fangs, good looks and above all else demonstrates that a body can morph into the various legends that few other authors feel that they can tackle. Add to the mix a serious supporting cast, some great dialogue alongside some descent pace bound up with a good number of twists and you know that the reader will be more than satisfied with this offering.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Pleasure of a Dark Prince - Kresley Cole

Release Date: 14/03/10


Can the beast seduce a beauty and make her love him...? A promise of pleasure ...from a brutal warrior determined to protect her. Never far from her bow, Lucia the Huntress is as mysterious as she is beautiful. But the secrets she harbors could destroy her-and those she loves-and every day brings more danger. It isn't safe for her to be with Garreth MacRieve, yet whenever she sees the fierce werewolf with his smoldering eyes, she finds herself surrendering to his kiss. An uncontrollable need ...that can only be sated with her touch. From the shadows, Garreth, prince of the Lykae, has long watched over Lucia, the lovely little Valkyrie who alternately maddens him and inflames his lust. He aches to claim the seductive creature as his own and keep her safe from harm, but first he must convince her to accept him as her guardian. To do that he'll exploit Lucia's greatest weakness-her desire for him.


Having not read Kresley’s work before I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with this offering. However what unfurled from what I can gather from friends who are fans is a tale that has been demanded for quite sometime. Whilst the plot is pretty big, I was firstly treated to a huge amount of backstory which put a lot of the events into context, however fans of the author may not be so enthused with this huge infodump. The characters are interesting, the love angle pretty intense and all in was a good bit of escapism for me as a reader. I’ll more than likely look into Kresley’s previous offerings when I get a bit more time.

Monday, 27 December 2010

HORROR REVIEW: A Dark Matter - Peter Straub

Release Date: 18/03/10


The charismatic and cunning Spenser Mallon is a campus guru in the 1960s, attracting the devotion and demanding sexual favors of his young acolytes. After he invites his most fervent followers to attend a secret ritual in a local meadow, the only thing that remains is a gruesomely dismembered body-and the shattered souls of all who were present. Years later, one man attempts to understand what happened to his wife and to his friends by writing a book about this horrible night, and it's through this process that they begin to examine the unspeakable events that have bound them in ways they cannot fathom, but that have haunted every one of them through their lives. As each of the old friends tries to come to grips with the darkness of the past, they find themselves face-to-face with the evil triggered so many years earlier. Unfolding through the individual stories of the fated group's members, A Dark Matter is an electric, chilling, and unpredictable novel that will satisfy Peter Straub's many ardent fans, and win him legions more.


To be honest about Straub, I tend to find that he’s either hit or miss for me as an author. Whilst a lot of authors love to write and can constantly produce quality titles there is a select group that seem to fall back on grabbing short story offerings and lengthening to full novel wordage, which is sadly the case with this release from this author. It’s long, it’s overly drawn out and to be honest you really need to save your pennies for something better out there as this really isn’t up to much. I just hope that he produces something a little better next time and doesn’t take the lazy route next time as otherwise a lot of readers will soon vote with their pockets.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Pax Britannia: Ulysses Quicksilver 6: Dark Side - Jonathan Green

Release Date: 30/11/10


Ulysses Quicksilver visits the British lunar colonies, searching for his missing brother, Barty, believed to be on the run from gambling debts on Earth. The clues lead our detective and his faithful butler into the path of unsolved murders, battling robots, shady millionaries and stolen uncanny inventions. Used to working inside the law, Ulysses is stalled when his pursuit puts him on the wrong side of the Luna Prime Police Force. But why is Ulysses' ex-fiancee Emilia also in the colonies? Who is the strange eye-patched man following Ulysses? And what is really happening in a secret base on the dark side of the moon? Used to meeting every adventure with a devil-may-care attitude and a snappy one-liner, Ulysses will be forever changed by the revelations he discovers on this most deadly of trips.


Fan’s of Jonathan’s Ulysses Quicksilver will be rushing and demanding this title quicker than Nimrod can pour a stiff brandy.

As usual, Jonathan’s writing is wonderfully descriptive alongside bringing a more vulnerable Quicksilver to the fore. Green’s latest title bring Steampunk Victoriana to the readers imagination so much so, that it’s going to be a long wait for Anno Frankenstein.

Finally, add some great dialogue alongside a return of an old friend or two which makes this Quicksilvers finest exploit to date. Whilst you can read this without having read the previous five, you’ll have lost a lot of background as well as some serious world building which generates its own head of steam that will be hard to stop once you get going.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

FANTASY REVIEW: Shadow Prowler - Alexey Pehov

Release Date: 01/04/10


After centuries of calm, the Nameless One is stirring. An army is gathering: giants, ogres and other creatures joining forces from across the Desolate Lands, united for the first time in history under one black banner. By the spring, or perhaps sooner, the Nameless One and his forces will be at the walls of the great city of Avendoom. Unless Shadow Harold, master thief, can find some way to stop them. Epic fantasy at its best, Shadow Prowler is the first in a trilogy that follows professional thief Shadow Harold on his quest for a magic Horn that will restore peace to the kingdom of Siala. Accompanied by an elfin princess, ten Wild Hearts - the most experienced and dangerous royal fighters - and the King's court jester (who may be more than he seems ...or less), Harold must outwit angry demons, escape the clutches of a band of hired murderers, survive ten bloody skirmishes ...and reach the burial grounds before dark. Can he escape a fate worse than death?


Fantasy is a genre that seems to translate as well as generate fan’s the world over. You get authors appearing from France, from Germany and now we’re getting a flavour of Eastern Europe. Whilst this tale originally was written in Russian, the translation of it is pretty well done although the odd piece does feel a little clunky. Add to the mix a pretty high octane adventure, shamanic magic alongside the more familiar wizard as well as a few of the old races reappearing and it’s a tale that will please the majority of readers. It’s great that publishers look further abroad to bring world class talent to the western market and this offering really does prove that there is some rich tradition just waiting to be tapped. A great book all in and I can’t wait to see what will occur in later offerings.

Friday, 24 December 2010



WINNER OF GIFT OF THE YEAR 2008! Here is a gift from me to you . . . for you to give back to me! Capture precious memories, experiences, family insights and social history from the life of your father in this quality hard-back journal. Have you ever wondered what your father was like when he was a child? What was it like to be young back then . . . and what are the biggest changes he has seen in his lifetime? Intrigued about what he enjoyed . . . or even how he met your mother? Interested in discovering fascinating facts about your ancestors? What about you and your relationship with your father . . . how did he feel when he found out he was going to be a dad? . . . what are his memories of you as a child & what made him proud? . . . what does he like about you & is there anything he'd change? We rarely talk about these things with our loved ones yet these are questions that lead to precious answers . . . answers that will, one day, be lost forever. This unique journal includes insightful questions to give your father the chance to find that 'book' within him . . . and give you a story that you will treasure and pass down through the generations. The perfect gift . . . that lasts forever.


Whilst I tend to review books that are already written, I’ve decided that I feel strongly enough to not only recommend this title but thought that it is such a caring and sharing gift that other people had to be told about them.

Each journal is set for a specific person be it your Mum, your Dad, your sister/brother or even Grandparents. It gives you the chance to get some of your own personal family moments written down by asking the person who it’s gifted to their memories with carefully considered questions such as:
What is your earliest memory?
What is your favourite Childhood game/toy?
What was the first record you bought?

Alongside questions such as What Interesting Information do you have about other people in our family?

As well as lots of other questions that the person for whom it’s meant for will treasure. Usually when things like this are considered it is too late to get the memories and you have to build them from what you recall. This way you get that person’s thoughts, emotions and feelings that can be treasured by the family for a long time, allowing grandchildren, great grandchildren to get a chance to know those who have gone before.

It really is a magical offering and a gift that I can’t praise highly enough. So get yours now, get those memories down and help to give your family the gift of knowledge that could be lost sooner rather than later.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Goddess of Summoning 1: Goddess of Legend - PC Cast

Release Date: 23/12/10


Isabel, a world-weary photojournalist, is grounded back home in Oklahoma, when her car plummets off a bridge into a lake. Struggling on the edge between life and death, she's miraculously saved by the Water Goddess, but with one tiny caveat: Isabel must travel to another time to seduce the legendary Lancelot du Lac away from Queen Guinevere. Simple. After all, the handsome knight is a dream for any woman in any century. Unfortunately Isabel is the one who's seduced - by the soulful eyes of the wise and soft-spoken King Arthur. But for Isabel, a deal is a deal. Now, the King watches as fate takes from him the mysterious beauty he has come to worship, knowing all too well that any interference on his part could destroy the kingdom he loves.


Whilst many know PC more for her House of Night series which are written alongside her daughter, PC comes to her own in what I can only term the Urban Fantasy Bodice Ripper where strong female leads walk the fine line of independence backed within the rules and restrictions of the society into which they’re placed. Here in this, the first novel in the Goddess of Summoning series the reader is transported back to the days of Camelot where a water goddess seeks to save her love, Merlin, from the fates by attempting to save Arthur from despair.

It’s beautifully written, its definitely a title that is a bit of a guilty pleasure and one that the reader will more than likely enjoy under the duvet with a glass of wine and a box of chocs. Ideal fare for the busy holiday and a great opportunity for the reader to escape the chaos to a world of their own as this title weaves its own eldritch spell of calmness within the storm.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

FICTION REVIEW: End of the Line - Ed. Jonathan Oliver

Release Date: 01/11/10


An anthology of Underground horror. In deep tunnels something stirs, borne on a warm breath of wind, reeking of diesel and blood. The spaces between stations hold secrets too terrible for the upper world to comprehend and the steel lines sing with the songs of the dead. Jonathan Oliver has collected together some of the very best in new horror writing in an themed anthology of stories set on, and around, the Underground, the Metro and other places deep below.


A title of short stories all based on the underground tube stations of one city or another written by a wealth of top Solaris talent Yet within this book there is a number of problems, first of all a lot of the stories rely on one line to make any sense so if you miss it, you’ll find that you’re left feeling confused. Add to that one or two stories that felt like they should have been part of something longer to give them a fuller appearance alongside some stores that really felt that they shouldn’t have made it into the title leaves this as a so/so title.

Whilst the odd one was very enjoyable the vast majority felt like a lot of the detail was missing that would have made them more of an acceptable tale and whilst they are bite sized which makes it an ideal travel companion it did feel that a lot of them were a bit rushed without having had the time to have the rough edges filled out. A great shame as the premise had a dark chill all of its own, especially for anyone who has ever ridden the underground late at night.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

GUEST FICTION REVIEW: Lady Eleanor reviews: Bad Girls - Rebecca Chance

Release Date: 05/08/10


They met in rehab - but some of them had rather more therapy than they bargained for. Supermodel Amber Peters should have the world at her feet. But her secret addiction has led her down a dangerous path. Lap dancer Skye Ellwood is desperate to get out of the life she's living, but has no idea how - until a client makes her an unusual proposition. Following an ultimatum from his fiance, A-list movie star Joe Jeffreys is finally heading to rehab to sort out his sex addiction - and save his squeaky-clean image. Spoiled daughter of a legendary rock god, Petal Gold is convinced she's a huge star in waiting, and she'll trample on anyone she thinks is standing in her way. Passion, jealousy, betrayal, revenge and scandal: during their tumultuous thirty days at Cascabel clinic, the lives of Amber, Skye, Joe and Petal will be transformed forever. But for one of them, the stakes could not be higher - or more dangerous.


The second novel by Rebecca that I’ve read and to be honest I really am wondering what the hell this author is not only on, but how the hell she’s getting published. Whilst the premise of this story is a typical set up (four characters all meeting in rehab) that seems to be about the extent of planning that the author put into this title. Each character is a poorly ill-conceived stereotype that not only don’t mesh but don’t make any real sense as the author doesn’t give you any hooks to allow you to empathise with them which for me is essentially the death of a title.

Key examples of this include:
1) A very young “It” girl who judging by the average readers age for this type of books is someone they can’t associate with.
2) The clichéd stripper who is essentially just a walking honey trap so that she can “kiss and sell.”
3) A Supermodel who must suffer from schizophrenia as she changes from an assured woman to a mewling little girl with no explanation.
4) An Actor who is essentially just there for the author to add some hot and heavy action that is to be honest anatomically impossible.

All in, the whole title was a very poor joke as the whole set up is something that’s been seen time and again and if I’m not going to beat about the bush there are better things to spend your money on. Add to this an overly drawn out plot that felt like it was taking forever to do anything coupled with ridiculous set ups alongside basic model characters and you were left wondering if the author treats her audience with contempt as this title really did leave me feeling cheated and that there were better things I could have spent my time doing. Finally, as if you haven’t guessed already, save your cash, save your time and wait that little bit longer as the new Jackie Collins is on the way. At least with her she knows the trade and exactly what women want.

Monday, 20 December 2010

GRAPHIC NOVEL REVIEW: The Adventures of Simon Pegg - Simon Pegg and Gaz Roberts

Release Date: 13/12/10


“Behold, Simon Pegg as you’ve never seen him before! Marvel as his superhero alter-ego traverses the continents in his customized Pegg Jet. His mission: to prevent the destruction of all life on earth.

A hilarious and brilliantly crafted graphic novel featuring the escapades of Simon Pegg, a ruggedly handsome superhero (with a body a bit like Brad Pitt’s from Fight Club and an almost constant thirst for Coke Zero) and his ever faithful robotic manservant, Canterbury, as they fight to stop the world from exploding. Will they get to Hendon in time to stop evil criminal Lord Black from carrying out his plan to fire his ancient Egyptian laser beam into the sun? Will Simon finally capture the heart of flame haired French cat burglar, The Scarlet Panther? And, perhaps most importantly, will Canterbury manage to provide appropriate refreshments for all visiting guests/informants? There’s only one way to find out …”


Fans of the Horus Heresy will absolutely love this title as the Space Wolves take to the fore in this epic story. Add to the mix the typical Abnett charm, a good dollop of combat meted out alongside some seriously good dialogue and prose which will leave the reader sated at the tales conclusion.

Finally add the fact that this title really adds to the overall story arc of the Heresy in such a way that its going to follow key events and the readers will find that they’ve got that something special that only Abnett can bring to the table. A great title and a serious Science Fiction title to kick off the New Year with.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

CRIME REVIEW: The Bone Garden - Brian Freeman

Release Date: 02/09/10


A teenager murdered. A teacher accused. A secret that won't stay buried.A year ago, accusations of an affair with a pupil cost Mark Bradley his teaching job. Now the student's sister has been found dead, and Mark faces a hostile town convinced of his guilt. Hilary Bradley is determined to protect her husband, but digging into the girl's secrets proves dangerous. Her only ally is a quirky Florida detective named Cab Bolton. As the facts emerge about the murdered girl's past, Cab's suspicion grows that others are involved in her death. But there are people willing to kill to keep the truth hidden -- and to make sure Mark pays the ultimate price for a young girl's murder. Hilary and Cab are both outsiders in a place that doesn't trust strangers and they're running out of time to find out what's buried in the ashes of the past...


Crime novels have to have something special to keep the reader not only interested but occupied as the reader is misdirected by the author throughout in order to give them a real surprise/shock at the tales conclusion. Whilst Brian’s writing isn’t at the top of the genre, it is something that is pretty solid and puts him in the upper echelon of writers to spend your finances on.

This title definitely has interest, it has a great principle character in Cab Bolton and the author does provide a title that will entertain as well as keep the reader guessing. Back that up with solid prose, some descent dialogue and the reader will get what they want by the tales end.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

GRAPHIC NOVEL REVIEW: Victorian Undead: Sherlock Holmes Vs Zombies - Ian Edginton and Davide Fabbri

Release Date: 17/12/10


In 1854, a meteor streaked across London's skies, bringing with it a zombie plague. For twenty years, Her Majesty's Secret Service kept the threat under control. But now dastardly fiend Moriarty has begun using the zombies in an attempt to overthrow the Victorian Government. Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson must face off against their favorite foe, MI-5 and zombies at the same time.


If you love a quirky title, then it pretty much won’t come any quirkier than this offering from Titan. Within this title is a tale that were Doyle so inclined would have generated a huge amount of interest and when backed with other Holmes titles in the supernatural area (also released by Titan) you know that you’ve got something fun to enjoy that builds upon the mythos already established.

Finally add the huge artistic talent to the mix alongside some great writing and the reader is in for a hell of a ride by the seat of their pants in this adventure for the Victorian age. This made this a real joy and a title that many more will get a huge amount of fun from due to the quirkiness and seriously good British humour within.

Friday, 17 December 2010

GRAPHIC NOVEL REVIEW: The Boys Vol 7: The Innocents - Garth Ennis and Darrick Robertson

Release Date: 17/12/10


Convinced that Hughie was never what he seemed, Butcher goes to see the Legend- and sets something terrible in motion for our little Scots pal...


The Boys, Ennis Anti-Superhero squad return in this, the seventh (ironically) compendium as the tale hots up and Wee Huey has to face some hard choices. Beautifully written with the typical Ennis sense of humour the reader gets to see the caring side of the characters as well as gets to see the fall out as the truth finally unveils itself.

Add to this the wonderful artwork of Darrick Robertson who really brings the characters to life and you know that its something special, the only complaint that I have is the huge wait in-between to get each instalment. A real gem of a title for the adult audience and whilst some may thing that Graphic novels should remain in the realm of the Young Adult, this clearly demonstrates that they shouldn’t have all the fun.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: Guardians of the Phoenix - Eric Brown

Release Date: 16/12/10


Global warming has taken its terrible toll. The seas have dried up and deserts cover much of the Earth’s surface. Humankind has been annihilated by drought and the nuclear and biological conflicts following the Great Breakdown. Desperate bands of humans still survive. Some live far underground, away from the searing temperatures and ongoing conflicts on the surface; others scrape a living in the remains of shattered cities above ground. In Paris, Pierre lives like an animal among the sand-drifted ruins of the once great city. Near death, he faces a choice: join the strangers heading south in search of water, or remain in the city and perish. Guardians of the Phoenix tells the story of the last survivors on planet Earth, their desperate fight for survival and their last hope to save the world.


To be honest, after Engineman I was sort of expecting something pretty special with this, the latest title by Eric Brown, but alas I was left wondering if I was reading the same author. The story was pretty hodgepodge, the character plain and unremarkable and to be honest predictable which made it as dull as dish water. Overall I really was put off this author quite a bit with this offering but considering the reputation that he’s carefully built over a few years I was surprised that this actually made it to print. Personally I’d have been happier had they left this one out or allowed a lot more time for the author to correct the many glaring errors within.

If you want to try Eric go for Engineman or perhaps wait for his next offering, the whisper in the wind is that Kings of Eternity is perhaps his best work to date. We’ll have to wait and see but I’m prepared to forgive this title if he provides something exceptional on his next outing.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

URBAN FANTASY HUMOUR: Lost - Gregory Maguire

Release Date: 16/08/10


A compelling ghost story from the internationally bestselling author of WICKED Winifred Rudge, a writer struggling to get beyond the runaway success of her mass-market astrology book, travels to London to start her new novel about the ghost of Jack the Ripper. Upon her arrival, she finds that her step-cousin and old friend John Comestor has disappeared, and a ghostly presence seems to have taken over his home. Is the spirit Winnie's great-great-grandfather, who, family legend claims, was Charles Dickens's childhood inspiration for Ebenezer Scrooge? Could it be the ghostly remains of Jack the Ripper? Or a phantasm derived from a more arcane and insidious origin? Winnie begins to investigate and finds herself the unwilling audience for a drama of specters and shades - some from her family's peculiar history and some from her own unvanquished past.


What Gregory has always done well in his writing is his character creation, it gives you someone that you can not only empathise with but want to spend time with which, as far as I’m concerned is the cornerstone for any novel.

However whilst the prose and humour was just as sharp as ever what this title lacked was any clear plot outline as it felt like the more idea’s the author had the more he added without any real thought as to cohesion for the project as a whole. This just led to confusion, a great deal of head scratching and to be honest will be something that will leave a lot of people wondering whether he’s all spent up with the previous two offerings.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

NEWS: Jim Butcher Fans Unite

Hail Mighty Readers,
With the winter nights closing in and the Black Circle on the march against Harry and his allies, make sure you show your support and let Orbit know that you support everyones favourite Chicago Wizard and you could win, yes, win, the complete series with new matching covers. OOOOHHHH, an early Christmas Gift or a special treat to enjoy until the new titles are out in April.

Remember who let you know,


THRILLER REVIEW: The Lost King - Bruno Hare

Release Date: 16/09/10


London, 1893. Mild-mannered watchmaker Cyril King harbours a secret wish to be an explorer. When he acquires a mysterious timepiece from a notorious criminal, Cyril gets his heart's desire, the clues he finds propelling him halfway around the world on the trail of a fabulous treasure. On the borders of India and Afghanistan, Cyril meets a real-life adventurer who seems to be everything he aspires to. But high in the Karakoram mountains there are lessons to be learned, as nothing is quite what Cyril expects: neither the treasure, nor his companion, nor the life of discovery and excitement which he imagined -- and certainly not the deadly peril into which he stumbles with all the insouciance of the innocent abroad. Meanwhile, intercut with Cyril's account of his 1893 adventures are the letters of famous explorer Sir Paul Linley-Small, written to Cyril from various points of the compass fifteen years later, as Small pursues a rare, perhaps mythical, creature. And as Small's tale grows ever more fantastic, the way in which the two narratives link with one another reflects on the nature of truth and the lives which we envisage for ourselves.


Fiction is a tricky beast to negotiate with, so at times you’re pretty much left out in the open hoping that they prey that you seek will appear for the final trap. Bruno’s debut is perhaps an unusual enough beast as it not only crosses between young adult titles as well as adult but brings a number of influences to the fore within. For example if you want a touch of Kipling writing (I personally see quite a bit of The Man who would be King” here,) a good dollop of Haggard (King Solomon’s Mines) then you’re pretty much in luck.

Add to this solid prose and an almost Victorian authors voice to the overall arc and it’s an historical fiction title that will more than please a number of readers. Definitely an author to watch and if you’re looking for something special for that HF fan in your life then this could be a pretty good bet and a title to obtain this holiday period.

Monday, 13 December 2010

DVD REVIEW: Salt - Angelina Jolie

Release Date: 13/12/10


As a CIA officer, Evelyn Salt swore an oath to duty, honour and country. Her loyalty will be tested when a defector accuses her of being a Russian spy. Salt goes on the run, using all her skills and years of experience as a covert operative to elude capture. Salt's efforts to prove her innocence only serve to cast doubt on her motives, as the hunt to uncover the truth behind her identity continues and the question remains: "Who is Salt?"


OK you want something that is going to not only keep you occupied but on the edge of your seat. You’re fed up waiting for the new Bourne alongside the new Tom Clancy and want something to help fill that void during the busy holiday period. And to top it all off you want top quality acting backed up with some great action sequences. So what are you going to grab?

My suggestion is the latest Angelina Jolie film, no not The Tourist, but Salt where Jolie plays Evelyn Salt, a CIA Agent who is accused of working for the enemy and goes on the run to prove her innocence. It’s fast paced, the quality of acting is descent and whilst the film has currently grossed $118 million its probably one that’s going to end up making a reasonable return for the studio.

Add to this a pretty slick plotline, some great action sequences backed up with descent dialogue relying on descent writing to sell the whole plot rather than a slocky romance between two major stars that seems to becoming all the rage. Violent, bloody and above all else edge of the seat action that really has kept me entertained for the best part of two hours. Great stuff.

ART BOOK REVIEW: The Ultimate Guide to Colored Pencil - Gary Greene

Release Date: 02/12/10


This book provides all the information artists need to experience success with both traditional and watercolour pencils. Readers will enjoy basic techniques, easy solutions to common problems, tips to finding the right tools, guidance for taking excellent reference photography and much more. It includes over 40 of Gary Greene's easy-to-follow step-by-step demonstrations for a variety of popular subjects.


Whilst a lot of the art books out there deal more with the medium of paint, wonderful pieces can be created with the magic of coloured pencils. Here in this guide by Gary Greene is a titles, which whilst two years in the making, pretty much is the ultimate guide.

Subjects within include materials and tools, reference photo’s as well as techniques from layering, under painting alongside burnishing and combining all three different types of pencils.

What perhaps really makes this title stand out is the authors simplistic and easy to understand language as it’s written in plain speak English without overly complicating the lessons with fancy art terms. When you back this with a comprehensive DVD that takes you on a step by step guide to painting a rose and this title really does allow the user to make the most of the lessons within. Finally add to this that this whole book is ring bound to help keep the pages that you’re working from open at the correct point and you know that it’s a title that will help you get the most from this medium. An ideal present for any art minded individual.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: Warhammer 40K: Dead Men Walking - Steve Lyons

Release Date: 09/12/10


When the necrons rise, a mining planet descends into a cauldron of war and the remorseless foes decimate the human defenders. Salvation comes in an unlikely form – the Death Korps of Kreig, a force as unfeeling as the Necrons themselves. When the two powers go to war, casualties are high and the magnitude of the destruction is unimaginable.


Everyone is starting to pay attention to the Necron’s so when it becomes the everyday trooper that has to fight these walking immortal undead then it’s a pretty hefty scary title. Here within this offering from the Black Library, the Death Korps are back and this time their dirty dozen face an enemy the like of which they have little hope of surviving. Beautifully written this charnel house of a story not only has a high body count but also presents the reader with a world where resistance is met head on with bullets and destruction. A cracking piece of writing from Steve and demonstrates why he’s a master of the Imperial Guards.

Whilst many others love the sheer power and abilities of the Astarte’s I love the average human tackling a job that even they would blanch at. A seriously cracking piece of writing and one that will keep you glued to the last page. Great stuff.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

SCIENCE FICTION AUDIO BOOK: Horus Heresy: Warhammer 40k: Garro: Oath of Moment

Release Date: 09/12/10


In surviving the horrors on board the Eisenstein, Nathaniel Garro proved his courage and absolute loyalty to the Emperor. On his return to Terra, Garro is despatched on a mission of even greater importance – a mission given to him by Malcador the Sigillite himself. He soon finds himself back amongst the stars and on the fields of battle, thrust into a warzone where the Ultramarines are purported to be battling a greenskin invasion. Once again Garro must fight for survival, but now he also fights to achieve a higher purpose...


A new Black Library audio book and one that brings the terrors of the Heresy to the fore as our hero sets out on his own against his former treacherous brothers to accomplish the task set before him by the “voice of the emperor.” Wonderfully told with some great vocal talent as well as some seriously descent story writing, this audio book is one that will entertain the listener for quite some time, especially with the addition of sound effects. Back that up with some new characters, some recognisable chapters as well as a bloody pyric war and you know that it’s going to deliver something not only unique but something that could prove pivotal to the Heresy War.

Friday, 10 December 2010

ART BOOK REVIEW: Otherworlds:How to Imagine, Paint and Create Epic Scenes of Fantasy - Tom Kidd

Release Date: 22/11/10


Draw and paint fantasy scenery. Readers learn how to bring forth ideas more quickly, and communicate a sense of place that evokes a range of emotions, especially the thrill of taking an exotic journey to explore the unknown. Readers will enjoy Tom Kidd's lively and personal step-by-step instruction that includes information on materials, observing nature, drawing, form, colour, and creating special effects. Readers learn to create scenes so vast they take your breath away with exquisite skies and aircraft, rugged terrain, glittering cites, spectacular rock formations, stormy seas, magnificent forests and more.


As many people know, I’m a huge fan of books that help the reader expand their talents as well as passing on top tips that help the reader get the most from an expert in the field to which the title pertains.

Here in this title, we get the legendary Tom Kidd giving the reader the benefit of his wealth of experience backed up with tips as well as tricks that he’s still mastering even whilst at the top of his game. This book is beautifully laid out, takes the reader through numerous mediums and also allows them to pick up tips to get the most from each technique. Perhaps Tom’s best tip is to practice, practice, practice and whilst this may come across as down heartening to the amateur it’s a truth that needs to be accepted.

Back that up with a step by step guide to get the most from what you’re doing and you know that its going to be something special as Tom encourages the reader to have fun alongside using their imagination. Finally, whilst a number of the titles released by Impact are designed to be picked up by those with no experience this one is for the reader that has been practicing their art for a while as whilst the basics are covered its designed more as a refresher rather than a by the hand guide.

All in, this title is a lot of fun, the reader/artist will benefit hugely from the authors skills and above all else it’s a title that whether you’re a professional or amateur will be referred to time and again for some tips to get their own work up to that next level or even just to figure out where the problem with the pieces construction lays.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

FANTASY REVIEW: Warhammer Heroes: Wulfrik - CL Werner

Release Date: 09/12/10


Emerging from the mists, Wulfrik the Wanderer brings destruction and death everywhere he treads. Cursed by the Ruinous Powers, the champion must seek prizes to appease the forces of Chaos. His unholy quest takes him to distant lands and pits him against foes no mortal man could defeat, but his blade is inescapable and his determination unrelenting. With the gift of tongues, he challenges any who stand in his way, an invitation to battle that cannot be refused. But now dark forces plot against Wulfrik, and he must discover the enemy within or else his soul will be lost to the Dark Gods forever.


In the bleak world of Warhammer, there are those who live in the darkest night and its to these characters that Clint’s recent offerings (bar the Ratling titles) have been featuring. This time it’s the turn of a Norsican Champion who battles against his fate as decreed by the Gods of Chaos.

What makes Clint’s writing so moreish is the fact that each lead character recently has a feeling of a play on some of the classic trends of fantasy, you have them battling against the odds in an almost Beowulfish style until the fates take them down swinging. It’s definitely well written, the dialogue is appropriate and if you want a good long slog with a touch of Slaine alongside elements of Howard then you really have to pick up this authors writing. Finally add a great sense of pace and you know where you are as you face down all manner of enemies until the last drop of blood is spilt. Great stuff.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

GENERAL INTEREST: The Spirit of the Sword - Steve Shackleford

Release Date: 08/10/10


Live the Legend. Feel the SteelSteeped in lore and legend, swords evoke images of samurai swordsmen, knights in shining armor, the glint of hardened steel, the charge of mounted cavalry. Spirit of the Word is a stunning visual journey through the history of the simplest and greatest weapon ever devised.

# More than 300 detailed photos of swords throughout the centuries and from around the world
# Scenes from the ancient swordmaking capitals of Europe
# The magic of the Japanese sword, including a profile of Yoshindo Yoshihara, the world's greatest living swordsmith
# Swords on the Big Screen: a cinematic exploration of sword mythology

For the historian, for the collector, for the edged weapon enthusiast, Spirit of the Sword is the perfect one-volume guide to the history and mystique of the world's long blades. From, fascinating information on the history of swords from around the world to helpful tips on collecting and displaying swords, you'll find in Spirit of the Sword.


Many people are interested in weaponry and whilst a lot of people’s passion is for the more recent development and the projectile, there’s a purist selection of people who prefer the more refined edge and combat of a sword. Here in this offering by Steve Shackleford (editor of Blade) is a who’s who of the sword-smithing world (although mainly American with the odd European added) as well as sections on sword-smithing, how its developed over time as well as a few other snippets of interest.

Add to this a wonderful selection of photography of various smiths work and it’s a delightful example of the ancient skills that are being lost to a more modern world. Each rather than just being functional, is a weapon of artistry as well as one crafted not only sweat and tears but usually blood. The only real change that I’d have made with this title would have been to have more European smiths added, for example Simon Fearnhamm of Raven Armoury, who not only makes weaponry for the public but also is utilised by the Royal Armouries who has been completely missed. All in a great title however and with a bit more research could well become the most authoritative voice out there.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

INTERVIEW: Christina Henry

In a world purportedly without magic its always a wonder how an author can weave thier own and take the reader away to a seperate reality, where time has no meaning.

Here we had chance to chat to Christina about her debut and discover a bit more about her, from wise cracking fallen angels through to popcorn munching gargoyls and discover her inner most torment, Adam Richman...

Falcata Times: Writing is said to be something that people are afflicted with rather than gifted and that it's something you have to do rather than want. What is your opinion of this statement and how true is it to you?

Christina Henry: I don’t know if I was afflicted with writing but it was something that I’ve always wanted to do. When I was 12 years old I read J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” for the first time and decided then and there to be a writer. I’ve never really wanted to do anything else.

FT: It is often said that if you can write a short story you can write anything. How true do you think this is and what have you written that either proves or disproves this POV?

CH: I think that some writers have a real mastery of the short form and others are better at the long form. Only a few writers (Stephen King and Robert Louis Stevenson come to mind) are really good at both.

I believe that short stories require a lot of precision. You have to establish your world, your characters and your problems in just a few sentences. I’m not that great at this kind of precision – I like to see how things unspool when I’m writing – so I think that I’m a much better novel writer than I am a short story writer. No one was ever interested in publishing my short stories but I got my first novel published so I guess I’m not the only one who thinks so!

FT: If someone were to enter a bookshop, how would you persuade them to try your novel over someone else's and how would you define it?

CH: I would define it as an urban fantasy with a little bit of humor, a little bit of mystery, a little bit of romance and a lot of action. I think (I hope!) it’s different from most UF’s in that it doesn’t prominently feature vampires or werewolves.

Maddy Black is an Agent of death, which is basically a crummy inherited job that involves transitioning souls from life to death. It also does not pay. She’s broke, she’s stressed and she’s got to rent the apartment in her building if she wants to have some income. She takes on a new tenant who winds up bringing a whole host of new supernatural problems with him. She’s also got a very mouthy gargoyle with a bad popcorn habit who loves to express his opinion on everything.

FT: How would you "sell" your book in 20 words or less?

CH: If you want a fun paranormal read with and you’re looking for something new then Black Wings is for you!

FT: Who is a must have on your bookshelf and whose latest release will find you on the bookshops doorstep waiting for it to open?

CH: Jim Butcher, Stephen King, Charlaine Harris and Neil Gaiman are all must-reads for me.

FT: When you sit down and write do you know how the story will end or do you just let the pen take you? ie Do you develop character profiles and outlines for your novels before writing them or do you let your idea's develop as you write?

CH: I’m an extremely organized, Type-A person about everything except my writing. I block out a work schedule for the week with the number of pages or scenes that I want to complete, but I never plan what I’m going to be writing more than a chapter or two ahead.

I always know the overall arc of the plot – what has to happen at the beginning and at the end – but I never really know what going to happen in the middle. I like to write my way through and kind of see how things unfold.

This can be a really fun way of writing because sometimes I surprise myself while I’m working, but sometimes it’s really horrible because I write myself into a corner and end up having to toss a couple of chapters because they aren’t working.

FT: What do you do to relax and what have you read recently?

CH: I usually relax by reading or running. I find running to be very meditative – I get into a zone
where I just kind of let thoughts flow freely and don’t concentrate on any one thing. A lot of times dialogue for an upcoming scene in a book will occur to me while I’m out running.

I also like to bake, which is I usually do when I’m at a slow point in my writing or as an afternoon activity when my son comes home from school.

Recently I’ve read “Side Jobs” by Jim Butcher, a collection of short stories from his Dresden
Files. Butcher is one of my favorite writers and it was nice to get a little something extra from the world of Harry Dresden before the next novel comes out in the spring.

FT: What is your guiltiest pleasure that few know about?

CH: Watching Man vs. Food on the Travel Channel. I just cannot look away from the spectacle of this guy eating crazy amounts of food.

FT: Lots of writers tend to have pets. What do you have and what are their key traits (and do they appear in your novel in certain character attributes?)

CH: I actually don’t have a pet, but we are planning on getting a dog when my son turns five.

FT: Which character within your latest book was the most fun to write and why?

CH: Beezle! He’s always good for some comic relief. Whenever I feel like the narrative is getting too heavy I bring him back onstage.

Also, he’s great to have around so that Maddy has someone to talk to. In a first-person narrative there’s always some danger that you’ll spend too much time lurking in the protagonist’s head, so Beezle gives me an opportunity to break up the continuous stream of thoughts from Maddy.

FT: How similar to your principle protagonist are you?

CH: Well, Maddy is short like me – mostly because I have no idea what the world looks like when you can actually reach things on shelves. And I think I have a little bit of the same attitude that she does. But Maddy is a lot more socially inept than I am (I hope) and she’s very sheltered in some ways. Also, I don’t have magical powers – unfortunately :)

FT: What hobbies do you have and how do they influence your work?

CH: I like to run, I like to read and I like to watch movies. Reading and film-watching are obviously great because I get a lot of ideas about how to pace a story, how to develop characters and so on by seeing how other writers have successfully dealt with these issues.

Running is good for me because it lets me work out a lot of writing-related stress. Plus, it gives me goals to reach that are separate from writing – like completing a certain race distance or trying to reach a certain pace per mile. Since I work from home it’s easy to let the work take over my life, so running gets me out of the house and doing something that’s good for my mind and my body.

FT: Where do you get your ideas from?

CH: I think that ideas come from everywhere, and usually my best ideas come when I’m thinking about something else – when I’m baking, or running, or just grocery shopping with my iPod on. Those are the “a-ha!” moments. Once I have an “a-ha!” moment a lot of story will flow easily from that point.

FT: Do you ever encounter writers block and if so how do you overcome it?

CH: I can’t say that I’ve ever had writer’s block. I’ve had points where the story is maybe not flowing as easily as it normally does but I find if I keep writing then something will happen. Maybe it won’t be the greatest writing I’ve ever done but I think the best thing to do is just keep working.

FT: Certain authors are renowned for writing at what many would call uncivilised times. When do you write and how do the others in your household feel about it?

CH: I have a four-year-old who gets up very early in the morning so I definitely cannot stay up late writing. He goes to preschool 2 ½ hours a day so I try to squeeze in as much work as I can during that time. If I haven’t hit my page count for the day (usually 5-8 pages) then I finish up the pages that evening after he goes to bed.

FT: Sometimes pieces of music seem to influence certain scenes within novels, do you have a soundtrack for your tale or is it a case of writing in silence with perhaps the odd musical break in-between scenes?

CH: A carefully composed playlist is actually an essential part of my writing process. Once I’ve put together the correct combination of songs that particular playlist will come to embody the overall tone of the book. Sometimes the songs influence the book and sometimes it’s the other way around, but either way the playlist eventually comes to epitomize the feeling of the book to me.

Usually I start off with an 8-10 song playlist and then I add to it as I get further into the novel until I’ve got about 20-25 songs that I listen to while I write. Every time I sit down at my laptop that playlist brings me right back into the story and the overall emotional arc of Maddy’s character. When I get to a point where the writing feels stale, I’ll put the playlist on my iPod and just listen to the music while I run errands or bake something in the kitchen. If I let my mind wander while still staying inside Maddy’s world through the music the next piece of the story will usually occur to me.

FT: What misconceptions, if any, did you have about the writing and publishing field when you were first getting started?

CH: I actually think that I had a good idea of what to expect when I got started. I had done a lot of research, gone to conferences, talked to writers and agents, spent some time reading agent blogs and so on. I knew that the process takes a long time, that you will be rejected before you are accepted, etc.

I think having a healthy attitude is important. I went into the process believing in the book and knowing that it was saleable, but also knowing that it would take a little while for it to get sold.

FT: What can you tell us about the next novel?

CH: I can tell you that the world will open up some, and that you will be introduced to some new creatures and characters that will become important in Maddy’s world. I can also tell you that her romantic relationships become more instead of less complicated, Beezle eats a lot more doughnuts, and that the ending of the book surprised me when I was writing it, so I hope it surprises you when you read it!

FT: What are the last five internet sites that you've visited?

CH: Runner’s World, Cooking Light, Dark Central Station, Borders and The Hockey News.

FT: Did you ever take any writing classes or specific instructions to learn the craft? If so please let us know which ones.

CH: I did my master’s degree in fiction writing and the teaching of writing at Columbia College Chicago. It’s a workshop format so you have a lot of opportunities to generate writing and get feedback on what’s working.

FT: How did you get past the initial barriers of criticism and rejection?

CH: I always tried to have an open mind when I was criticized. Sometimes you think the criticism is valid and sometimes you don’t, but if you shut off all criticism then you’ll miss useful feedback. You have to take what works for you and not worry about the rest.

FT: In your opinion, what are the best and worst aspects of writing for a living?

CH: Writing gives me a chance to be a stay-at-home mom and still generate a little income, which is great. It’s nice to be able to pick my son up from preschool and spend the afternoon with him.

The worst part is that because I work from home it’s easy to let the work take over your life. I have to make a real conscious decision to work only at certain times of the day and not let writing interfere with normal family life.

Thanks so much for having me here today!

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Black Wings - Christina Henry

Release Date: 07/12/10


Escorting souls into the afterlife leaves Maddy little time for socialising - until devilishly handsome Gabriel Angeloscuro agrees to rent the empty apartment in her building. But when demons start appearing on Maddy's front lawn, she realises there's more to her new tenant than meets the eye.


I always love the opportunity to try and new author, so when Christina’s title flitted across my vision I just had to give it a go. Death, as they say is a certainty, so I suppose it was only a matter of time before the embodiment took over the Urban Fantasy genre to such a degree that they’d give the vamps, Were’s and witches as serious run for their money. Not that it’s a bad thing but with so many titles featuring the reaper in all sort of incarnations each author has had to do something different to avoid being compared to the ones that have gone before.

Here in this title, Death takes the form of human agents with the blood of angels who take over the roll of certain fallen angels aiding humanity to pass onto the other side and whatever fate has in store. It’s clever, the characters are cracking and to be honest the way that the story is woven really will lend the title up to multiple follow ups. Whilst many will concentrate on the romance of the characters within, the real star of the show for me, was a minor character, Beezle the Gargoyle. He’s definitely the star and whilst many could end up wondering why, any author who lavishes that much time and love into a supporting cast member has taken a lot of care to create the other players.

All in, beautifully creative with some great prose, a serious sense of style alongside some cleverly built devices and dialogue. A great title to kick off a writing career and I wonder how much further Christina will be able to go. The only question is how much more complex is our heroines life going to get with the twists that have been left open to be resolved? I guess we’ll have to wait to find out.

Monday, 6 December 2010

FILM TIE IN: The Sounds of Star Wars - J W Rinzler, Ben Burtt

Release Date: 22/09/10


The story of the sound effects created for the Star Wars films featuring a state-of-the-art sound module with more than 250 sounds. In 1977, when Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope hit theatres, moviegoers were blown away by a cinematic experience unlike anything they had seen - or heard - before. A young man named Ben Burtt was behind the revolutionary sound effects and went on to develop the sound design for all of the Star Wars films. His trademark was using found sounds along with electronic manipulation to give the film an authentic and many-layered effect. In Star Wars Sounds, we find out the origins of many of these pioneering sounds: How Aunt Beru's Food Processor is a series of slowed-down beeps that come from a short-wave radio belonging to Burtt's grandfather. The beeps were originally recorded in the attic of Burtt's Ohio home. How the sound of the Millennium Falcon was created when Burtt went to the National Air Races in the Mojave desert and recorded World War II-era racing planes flying directly overhead. The occasional thunderclap or lion's roar was also mixed in during the moment the Falcon passed by the camera. How Burtt based the Jawa language on Zulu, then accelerated and raised the pitch of the actors' performances. And how an insanely aggressive dachshund owned by Burtt's neighbours provided the sounds that became the murderous roar of the massive Rancor beast.


Fans of the Star Wars Universe probably haven’t really questioned the origins of the sound effects yet despite the huge ligh shows and the possibilities of technology it’s the sound effects that either make or break a film.

Here in this title, the reader not only gets to read about how the effects were created but can listen as they learn through the nifty sound player with numbered tracks.

It not only adds to the experience but also will allow the star wars fan the chance to run around making their own, which, were they a roleplayer would add to that experience. A great book, although the price may make some blanch it’s definitely something special that will please any fan. Just remember to watch it when family members turn up, I know that at least one of mine will covet it.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

FANTASY REVIEW: A Malazan Book of the Fallen: Stonewielder - Ian C Esslemont

Release Date: 25/11/10


Greymane believed he'd outrun his past. With his school for swordsmanship in Falar, he was looking forward to a quiet life, although his colleague Kyle wasn't as enamoured with life outside the mercenary company, the Crimson Guard. However, it seems it is not so easy for an ex-Fist of the Malazan Empire to disappear, especially one under sentence of death from that same Empire. For there is a new Emperor on the throne of Malaz, and he is dwelling on the ignominy that is the Empire's failed invasion of the Korel subcontinent. In the vaults beneath Unta, the Imperial capital, lie the answers to that disaster. And out of this buried history surfaces the name Stonewielder. In Korel, Lord Protector Hiam, commander of the Stormguard, faces the potential annihilation of all that he holds dear. With few remaining men and a crumbling stone wall that has seen better days, he confronts an ancient enemy: the sea-borne Stormriders have returned. Religious war also threatens these lands. The cult of the Blessed Lady, which had stood firm against the Riders for millennia, now seeks to eradicate its rivals. And as chaos looms, a local magistrate investigating a series of murders suddenly finds himself at the heart of a far more ancient and terrifying crime - one that has tainted an entire land... Stonewielder is an enthralling new chapter in the epic story of a thrillingly imagined world.


With previous offerings, Ian’s writing has felt that it hasn’t quite matched up to par with Eriksons, not that the word building or the characters have felt less detailed but Ian’s pace felt a little lacklustre. Here in this title, his writing has gone from strength to strength. The characters are cracking, the dialogue is also wonderful but it’s the way that he brings together the threads from previous titles that clearly demonstrates an understanding of the world as well as the deeper machinations of the desires of the players within that make this an epic in its own right.

Add to this some great sense of timing, solid world building and topped off with a masters touch of creativity and you know that Ian’s writing is going to be something that fans will just demand in a similar way to Steven. This is a real gem of a title and one that shows the way in which the author is growing with each successive tale. Great stuff.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: The Windup Girl - Paolo Bacigalupi

Release Date: 02/12/10


Anderson Lake is a company man, AgriGen's Calorie Man in Thailand. Under cover as a factory manager, Anderson combs Bangkok's street markets in search of foodstuffs thought to be extinct, hoping to reap the bounty of history's lost calories. There, he encounters Emiko. Emiko is the Windup Girl, a strange and beautiful creature. One of the New People, Emiko is not human; instead, she is an engineered being, creche-grown and programmed to satisfy the decadent whims of a Kyoto businessman, but now abandoned to the streets of Bangkok. Regarded as soulless beings by some, devils by others, New People are slaves, soldiers, and toys of the rich in a chilling near future in which calorie companies rule the world, the oil age has passed, and the side effects of bio-engineered plagues run rampant across the globe. What Happens when calories become currency? What happens when bio-terrorism becomes a tool for corporate profits, when said bio-terrorism's genetic drift forces mankind to the cusp of post-human evolution? In The Windup Girl, award-winning author Paolo Bacigalupi returns to the world of "The Calorie Man" (Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award-winner, Hugo Award nominee, 2006) and "Yellow Card Man" (Hugo Award nominee, 2007) in order to address these poignant questions.


To be honest, there has been a hell of a lot of hype out there about this title, firstly its been sold as the next big thing, but if you have had the chance to avoid the hype then maybe this review might help you make up your mind.

It is well written and the world is wonderfully creative in a near time bleak future however the author has a lot of problems with characterisation, speech and to be honest keeping things consistent throughout. That said, the characters are definitely interesting and whilst they may fall apart when examined closer they do help the reader get to where they have to go within the title.

Yet despite all the hard work that’s gone in, the tale feels like it’s a first part of so many more to come almost as if this first offering is just that, a setting the scene for the tale to get going in the second novel, which to be honest left me feeling a little cheated as when I get a title I want the full story now, a tale with no real movement alongside a serious lack of pace does leave the reader wondering whether the hype is worth all the work that’s gone on before. That said, I will try to read the next part as soon as I can but for the moment I’d perhaps suggest leaving off until a more rounded and honest opinion is out there as I feel that were this to be bought now, based purely on the hype, that there will be a lot of disappointed people on Christmas morning..